The following is an excerpt from the memoir of “Dickie” Jenkins. Jenkins served as the primary exercise rider for the legendary racehorse Kelso and was a longtime assistant for trainer Carl Hanford. Click here to read more from his memoir…
We had about seventeen or eighteen days before the Brooklyn Handicap, and from what I could see by just looking at him, he was going to win this one too. I know it sounds like I was getting ahead of myself, but that was the way I felt. I knew he came out of this race jumping and playing while going back to the barn, and [Kelso’s groom] Bill had his hands full trying to keep him on the ground. I told Bill not to give him to me for fear he might rear up on me and the pony.
When we got back to our barn, I walked him for another twenty minutes or so to make sure he settled down, picked at his hay, and then took another pee which he always did. He did settle down, started to eat and pee again, but as soon as Carl [Hanford] and Mrs. du Pont came into the barn, he started pawing and wanted Mrs. du Pont to give him some sugar. She didn’t have any, so I asked Carl to take her out of the barn so he would settle down. She understood and went to the car, while I followed her out.
We sat in the car, and she asked me, “What kind of horse do we have, Dickie? He is an odd fellow, and did you hear the crowd?”
“I sure did, and I thought the grandstand was going to fall in, it was so loud. I can sure tell you one thing, Mrs., that if he stays healthy and eats good, all we need to do is blow him out and run him the next day. He will win this race coming up too”
Carl came up on us while we were talking, and said, “What about blowing him out?”
Mrs. du Pont said, “Dickie said this horse doesn’t need anything but gallop to the race, blow him out, and then run him.”
Carl looked at me, and wasn’t too happy with what Mrs. du Pont said. He told me that he would talk to her later about this, turned around, and walked back to the barn. I knew I was in for it the next morning. When they were getting ready to leave, Carl said goodnight to Bill and that he would see him tomorrow, but didn’t say anything to me, but gave me a look that burned my face.
When they left, Bill asked me what Mrs. du Pont and I were talking about in the car. After I told him, he said that Carl was really mad that you were out there talking, and decided that he better go out there to see what you were running your mouth about.
The next morning, Carl came into the barn and told Bill to get Kelso cleaned up because Mrs. du Pont would be here in thirty minutes. She wanted to watch the horses train this morning. He told me to get Kelso and start walking him, but not to let him kick in the wall. Carl seemed like he wasn’t going to say anything about yesterday. In fact, he was being really nice to me.
Mrs. du Pont came, and she was sitting in the car with her friend, Mrs. Elma Beal, and her housekeeper, Flo, was sitting in the back seat. I got Kelso walked and put him back in his stall. Mrs. du Pont called me to come over to the car.
I thought, “Here we go again,” and looked over at Carl, but he just smiled and told me to have a good time. I had no idea what he meant by saying that. It turned out that last night, she had asked Carl if she could have me for the day. Carl said that was fine, but he wanted to know what she needed me for. She said that Mrs. Beal had her housekeeper with her, and she wanted to see New York City.
Mrs. du Pont thought since I already knew Elma, I wouldn’t mind taking Flo and Elma around the town. Carl said he would be glad to help out, so I went to the car, and Mrs. du Pont said, “Dickie, this is Flo, Mrs. Beal’s housekeeper. I told Elma that you would take them to the city, show them around, and take then to dinner.”
Mrs. Beal said, “Dickie, you are a real sport to do this.”
I said, “Sure, I’ll take them. Elma is my old buddy, and is always giving me cookies at the house.”
Then Mrs. du Pont gave me $300, her credit card, and told me to go to town to get her car to use. I went to town, got the car, and came back to the barn to shower and change clothes. When I got there, Carl, Bill and Fitz were all standing at the end of the barn and started laughing at me. “Boy, you sure have a way with the girls; you have a date with two of them.”
“Sure do,” I said, “and look what they gave me to take them out.”
I showed Carl the three hundred dollar bills, and said, “Do you know what I’m going to do with this money?”
Carl looked at me and said, “What do you plan to do with that $300? Just take the girls out?”
“No, I’m going to bet it all on Kelso this week.” Carl replied, “You better keep it in your pocket. Did you know that Tommy Trotter put 136 pounds on this horse?”
“Carl, I don’t care if Tommy T. puts 236 pounds on him. He will still win.”
I went into the room and started to take my shower, when Carl came in. “Dickie, I just want to ask you one question. I know you like this horse, but do you think he can beats these horses with 136 pounds?”
“I sure do.”
“Here’s another question. Did you tell Eddie [Arcaro] that if he stayed on this horse, he wouldn’t get beat? That was what Bones was telling some of the agents in the office. Dickie, he can’t win them all.”
“Yes, he can, if Eddie stays on him, and you don’t go shipping him all over the place, running him on those black top roads they call race tracks.”
I was standing there, and couldn’t believe what I had just said. Carl was dumbfounded. He said, “Dickie, just let it be, and let’s see what happens, okay? Please stop talking like this. You sound like some greenhorn, although you might be right.”
The race was two days off. We had him out that morning. He was full of it too. Carl said that we would blow him out a half mile the next morning.
We got to the track early the next day before it was all torn up. Carl told me to take him to the half mile pole, snap him off, then take a good hold of him, and let him go on his own. I snap him off, and he took off like a raging bull.
When I took hold of him, it was like pulling the barn. I just sat there, and when I got to the wire, I stood up on him, pulled him off the inside fence, but he didn’t want to pull up. I went to the backside where there weren’t any horses, so I was able to go to the outside fence with him, and he pulled up okay.
Carl came running up to us, yelling, “What in the hell do you call that?”
I told him that was the only way I was going to get him pulled up.
“He was that tough, Dickie?”
“He sure was, Carl. This horse is something I can’t even tell you what. The only thing I can tell you, and you can laugh if you want, but this horse will win tomorrow.”
Carl said nothing, but reached over, patted Kelso on his neck, looked at me and smiled. We both didn’t say a word.
We got back to the barn, and Bill was ready to give him a bath. I jumped down and took the saddle off, while Carl went into the barn and put the pony away. Bill was washing Kelso, turned around and said, “What’s wrong with you and Carl? You two came back from the track, and both of you had this stone face look.”
“Well, Bill, I think I got Carl where he doesn’t know what to think about this horse.”
“I’d stop trying,” Bill said, “for I just work here, and I’m not about to let him drive me crazy.”
I laughed and said that that was a good way to look at it.
Here we were, going to the paddock for the Brooklyn Handicap, and I was not one bit nervous about anything. We went around the walking ring two or three times, and then Carl told us to bring him into the stall. The valet came with the saddle, and so did Eddie. Mrs. du Pont met him coming to the paddock and gave him a big hug.
On the way over from the barn to the paddock, when we got to where the fans could see us, they almost tore the grandstand down. For as long as I can remember, I never heard any horse get that kind of greeting coming to the paddock.
When we got to the stand, Kelso stopped and looked right up into the grandstand. The fans went nuts. I couldn’t hear anything over the noise.
When Eddie got to the stall and saw Carl, he said something to him, but I couldn’t hear what it was. Carl put his hand on Eddie’s arm, pointed to me, and Eddie looked up at me and smiled. Riders up. Carl gave Eddie a leg up, patted his knee, and wished him good luck.
Bill walked out to the track and handed him to me, saying, “Don’t turn him loose, Dickie. He’s ready today. I told Eddie that you would hang on to him. Please do.”
Eddie said, “Dickie, how did he blowout yesterday?”
“Real good, although he got a little tough to pull up.”
“Well,” Eddie said, “We’re giving a lot of weight to this bunch of horses. I heard [jockey] Mickey Solomone was going to the front with Divine Comedy, and I don’t know how long he can handle the front. But I’m not going to worry too much about him.”
I was waiting for Eddie to ask me something, so I could say one thing more.
As we got around the turn, I pulled up and started walking to kill time.
Then Eddie said, “You think he can handle these horses, do you?”
I answered, “He can handle them okay, but don’t let these horses get away from you, and if you will let him, he will run his own race.”
I told Eddie that if he had to hit him, to try not to bang on him too hard, for he didn’t like it. We got to the gate, and all the horses were loading well. I looked over my pony’s head, and right in front of him was Our Hope. Divine Comedy was on the outside of Kelso. They were all in the gate, and the man said go.
I was watching Kelso real close, and Eddie was right. Divine Comedy was long gone. I watched them going into the first turn, and Kelso was ten or twelve lengths behind the front runner, but he looked like he was going easy.
Down the backstretch, I could see Kelso was way out of it. That was when I started to hope that Eddie was not going to let Divine Comedy steal this race because I knew if Eddie would move on him just a little, Kelso would take after him. He looked like he was flying, going past the three eighths pole. When I saw Kelso at the quarter pole, I knew Eddie had to make his move fast. From where I was, I could see Divine Comedy coming back to him at the eighth pole. I couldn’t tell if Eddie had gone to the whip with him or not, but I could see he was going to catch him.
He won with that 136 pounds.
I got my pony in gear, and took off to the winner’s circle. You couldn’t hear anything, for the fans went nuts, and me, I was so proud of Kelso, and said to myself that this horse belongs to the fans who love him.
“Good boy, Kelso,” I said to myself, “you didn’t surprise me, for I knew what you could do, and I thank you for putting me on the map.”
Read the next chapter Kelso beaten in the Washington Park Handicap